HSMP Forum's Press Release

Court challenge looms to government's immigration bill

                                                                                           Dt - 2nd May 2009 

The government faces a wave of legal challenges to its new immigration and citizenship bill, which ignores repeated High Court rulings that the Home Office cannot keep changing the rules for migrants already living in Britain .

The campaign group HSMP Forum, which represents skilled migrants in the UK , has won two landmark judicial review cases where the Home Office was ordered to honour the original terms of migrants' visas after it tried to alter them retrospectively.

The government's legal fees ran into tens of thousands of pounds and analysts say it now faces individuals’ compensation claims that could be in millions.

"Yet Ministers Jacqui Smith and Liam Byrne are determined to press ahead with the new Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, which tries the same thing all over again," said Amit Kapadia, the executive director of HSMP Forum, which takes its name from the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme.

Among many discriminatory provisions, the new bill retrospectively lengthens the waiting period for citizenship to eight years.

"If long-standing, taxpaying, completely legitimate migrants want to make a commitment to citizenship after six years - as originally promised when they came here - they are reduced to the status of criminals by effectively being sentenced to a community service order," Mr Kapadia said.

"Exactly this type of retrospective change has been repeatedly condemned by the High Court, the immigration courts, and MPs and Lords from all sides of politics. Parliament's own influential and cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights has repeatedly warned the government about this, and ultimately the high court pronounced such changes illegal.

"We are urging MPs from all sides to scrap this bill - or ensure it is heavily amended so that no legitimate migrant already living in Britain is caught up in these latest arbitrary and retrospective rule changes, which are doomed to failure."

Mr Kapadia said the government had already been embarrassed on the bill in the House of Lords by Baroness Hanham's amendments, which toned down some of its retrospective effects.

"However these amendments do not go far enough," Mr Kapadia said.

"They only help immigrants with applications in the system - not the vast majority who have been here several years but are still some way off from being able to apply for residency or citizenship.

"Ms Smith and her ministers have tried to stifle debate on the bill by loosely promising 'transitional arrangements' for existing migrants, but MPs need to see through this.

"The government cannot conceal the fact that it fully intends for these new laws to catch out the vast majority of legitimate working migrants who have been in Britain for several years, working towards their goal of residency of citizenship - and now face yet another Home Office attempt to move the goalposts."

Mr Kapadia said the recent Gurkha vote against the government displayed a sense of fair play among MPs towards foreigners who have shown a commitment to Britain .

"We ask that MPs show a similar sense of fairness towards legitimate working migrants by challenging this Bill," he said.

"We accept that the UK can change its immigration rules, but those changes must not be applied to existing legal migrants in Britain . The courts have said again and again that the government cannot continually undermine migrants’ legitimate expectations, and that migrants have the right to plan their private and family lives in the UK free from this sort of interference."

Mr Kapadia said it was a lie that working non-EU migrants in Britain were able to access state benefits and council housing.

"Migrants' visas include a ban on any access to public funds," he said.

"Migrants have to completely support themselves and their families, they pay full taxes and do not receive state benefits or support, unlike EU migrants and asylum-seekers.

"Yet this bill includes draconian measures like deporting working migrants who become unemployed for relatively brief periods - even when they have enough money saved to sustain themselves while they find another job. This is a way of life for many contract workers, both British and foreign.

"Skilled migrants feel it is time the government left them alone and focused on the real problems with Britain's immigration system. They may not be citizens yet, but they are not second-class citizens either.

"If the Bill goes ahead in its current form, HSMP Forum will have no hesitation in going back to court and we are completely confident of victory."

More information:

Amit Kapadia, executive director, HSMP Forum

amit@hsmpforumltd.com   +44 (0) 7830 374 629

Resources for editors:

Text of the latest (2009) HSMP Forum High Court ruling:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2009/711.html

Telegraph: Home Office facing multi-million compensation bill after skilled migrant ruling:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5115845/Home-Office-facing-multi-million-compensation-bill-after-skilled-migrant-ruling.html

Text of the earlier (2008) HSMP Forum High Court ruling:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2008/664.html

BBC: Immigration rule change 'illegal':

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7336360.stm

Guardian: 'Earned citizenship' - government defeated in Lords:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/mar/26/yesterday-parliament

Joint Committee on Human Rights criticises Borders, Immigration and

Citizenship Bill (search for 'unedifiying spectacle'):

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/62/6205.htm#a7

Lords ruling: British-trained foreign doctors (BAPIO) win right to

keep working here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldjudgmt/jd080430/bapio-1.htm

HSMP Forum website:

http://www.hsmpforumltd.com

 
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